What is discitis, and how is it treated?

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Discitis is an inflammation that occurs between the intervertebral discs of the spine. The swelling that occurs in these spaces between the vertebrae of the spine puts pressure on the vertebral discs, resulting in back pain.

Discitis is often seen accompanying another medical condition called osteomyelitis (an infection that causes inflammation of the bone and bone marrow.)

If you are experiencing pain in your spine that interferes with mobility, then schedule a consultation with the team at OrthoNeuro.

Our orthopedic surgeons provide state-of-the-art diagnosis and personalized treatment. Call or book an appointment now.

What Is the Cause of Discitis?

Discitis is usually caused by a bacterial, viral, or fungal infection. Infectious discitis can cause irritation and swelling of the joints, tissues, and vertebrae surrounding the spine.


About Discitis

In rare cases, it can also be caused by an autoimmune reaction, where the immune system attacks its own tissues, which can cause spinal inflammation.

What Are the Symptoms of Discitis?

Some of the symptoms of discitis can include:

  • Severe back pain
  • Stiffness in the back
  • Abdominal pain
  • Difficulty performing regular tasks
  • Fever
  • A change in your posture
  • Loss of appetite

How Is Discitis Diagnosed?

A physician will usually diagnose discitis by first performing a physical exam and asking you questions about your medical history.

To confirm the diagnosis, a physician will then order different diagnostic tests such as the following:

  • Bone scan: A test used to access the vitality of the bone and determine whether or not you have a bone infection.
  • Imaging tests: These tests are usually MRIs or X-rays, used to take pictures of the spine and its surrounding tissues.
  • Tissue analysis: This test includes a biopsy of the tissues surrounding your spine. Your physician will collect a sample of your spinal tissue for analysis.
  • Blood tests: A blood sample is taken, which gives a count of your red and white blood cells. This can help to diagnose infection.

What Is the Treatment for Discitis?

The treatment of discitis often depends on the patient’s age and the cause of the infection. Discitis is a condition that is known for being difficult to treat.

Spinal discs do not often have a strong blood supply. This makes it challenging for the immune cells in the body to reach and heal the infection if bacteria is there.

In addition, there is no surgical procedure that can treat discitis.

Antibiotic treatment does not easily treat discitis. This is because antibiotics travel through the bloodstream and do not easily reach the infected spinal discs.

A very long course of antibiotic treatment is needed to treat discitis, and often this antibiotic therapy lasts six to eight weeks.

Unfortunately, this prolonged treatment can often lead to depression which is another side effect of the condition.

Most of the treatment used for discitis eliminates infection and relieves pain.

Some treatments used to treat discitis are listed below:

Bed rest

Wearing a back brace

Pain relief medications

Anti-inflammatory medication



Eating a healthy diet and responsible drinking

Who Is at Risk of Developing Discitis?

Those who are at risk for developing discitis usually are in the following situations:

  • Have a weakened immune system
  • A user of intravenous drugs
  • Recovering from surgery
  • Have an autoimmune disorder
  • A child under the age of 10

Contact Us

If you have back pain and would like to know if you have severe or chronic discitis, schedule a consultation online today at OrthoNeuro.

Our orthopedic surgeons provide state-of-the-art diagnosis and personalized treatment.

Frequently Asked Questions

How Long Does It Take To Heal from Discitis?

It takes an average of six to eight weeks to undergo the antibiotic therapy needed to treat discitis.

Most who have discitis fully recover either on their own or with the help of antibiotics.

What Antibiotics Treat Discitis?

The antibiotics most commonly used to treat discitis are vancomycin, cefepime, linezolid, amikacin, and metronidazole. 

Make an Appointment with an OrthoNeuro Spine Surgeon Today!

If you have been experiencing symptoms of discitis, schedule an appointment with one of our Board Certified Spine Specialists at one of our 7 convenient locations throughout Greater Columbus. 

We will evaluate your unique lifestyle and goals to determine which type of treatment is best for you. 

Spine Care Specialists

If you live with chronic back or neck pain, contact OrthoNeuro in Columbus, Ohio, for state-of-the-art diagnosis and personalized spine care treatment plans to heal your spine, relieve your pain, and help you get back to your regular activities.

Ying H. Chen, DO, FACOS


Paul H. Eichenseer, DO

Orthopedic Spine Surgeon

David K. Kim, MD

Orthopedic Spine Surgeon

Donald J. Rohl, DO

Orthopedic Spine Surgeon

Larry Todd, DO

Orthopedic Spine Surgeon

Mark A. White, DO


Daniel P. Pap, MD

Interventional Pain Specialist

Siddharth Shetgeri, DO


Dustin Reynolds, M.D.

Interventional Pain Management Specialist

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